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Public Eye

Salvation, Salvation

The Santa Clara County chapter of the Salvation Army got more than a free lunch at its annual soup kitchen-volunteer recognition luncheon last week at the LeBaron Hotel. While attendees munched sandwiches and golfball-sized scoops of potato salad, they were treated to a speech by the Salvation Army's former national commander, Jim Osborne. Osborne's talk started out friendly enough, but quickly degenerated into what one observer described as "a speech Pat Buchanan would have been embarrassed to give"--a diatribe blaming unmarried people, gays and lesbians for destroying the moral polyester of the nation. At the end of his talk, dignitaries filed off stage quickly, amid murmurs and clearing throats. One woman even left in tears. Salvation Army spinmeisters kicked into overdrive explaining that the group provides services to people who need them, regardless of whom they sleep with. "The Salvation Army doesn't discriminate," advisory board member Roy Bigge told Eye, again. "We provide services to all lifestyles." ... Bigge went on to play the apologist for Osborne's comments. "I don't think they do it out of maliciousness, but I think they don't know what they are saying," he said.

Hell's Bells

Although it hasn't received much attention elsewhere, there was yet another taste of the brave new world of telcom deregulation last Tuesday when, for more than two hours, upwards of 400,000 phone calls coming into and going out of north county homes and businesses were blocked by a communications failure between Pacific Bell and AT&T. "We did have a little glitch, didn't we?" confirms PacBell spokesperson Beverly Butler, who noted that the outage "only" hit customers using AT&T long-distance lines in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and parts of San Mateo County. During the outage, PacBell AT&T customers in these cities were unable to dial out of the area nor could they be reached over long-distance lines from anywhere else, including from San Jose. "It was a PacBell error," AT&T spokesperson Kathi Oram finger-points, contending that the breakdown was the result of software changes the local Baby Bell made to the high-tech "switch" that routes calls into and out of the area. "They actually went in and removed the AT&T code from the switch," Oram explains, adding that authorities at PacBell were the source of this information. However, the folks at PacBell offered us a slightly different version. "We're not totally in agreement with that. We don't really know what happened," PacBell's Butler responds, adding that all she really does know right now is that the "event" lasted from 11:10am till 1:15pm on Tuesday and caused 213,379 uncompleted incoming AT&T calls and 192,041 uncompleted outgoing AT&T calls. "We're doing a root-cause analysis," Butler assures Eye, claiming that PacBell requires another 30 days or so to complete its analysis before the company can or will accept any public responsibility. Meanwhile, customers who contacted an AT&T operator for assistance in placing long-distance calls during the outage, which was the only way to get through, will be billed the standard "operator assistance charges" (about $1 per call) unless they notified the operator at the time that they were requesting assistance because of a system failure. Because of the quantity, operator assistance surcharges could have totaled as much as $100,000 during the breakdown. "We are perfectly happy to refund those charges," Oram says, adding that AT&T customers should check their bills and then contact AT&T directly to request a refund.

Heads Up

Silicon Valley's schizophrenic congressional delegation, composed of Democrats Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren and Republican Tom Campbell, frequently take turns canceling out each other's votes on key issues like whether rich people should pay taxes, whether the Pentagon should get more money or when Newt Gingrich should be put on a midnight train back to Georgia. In a rare moment of unity, though, they got their act together briefly last week by cosigning a strongly worded public letter to President Bill Clinton. The missive notes that U.S. industry stands to lose $60 billion in revenue and 200,000 jobs by the year 2000 if the administration proceeds with its plan to continue restrictions on the export of encryption software products designed to provide enhanced online security. The Clinton administration has stuck with the George Bush administration's approach of trying to keep the secret encryption codes bottled up despite the fact that advanced encryption technologies are already in widespread use outside the United States. "They've [the Clinton administration] really got their heads up their butts on this one," says a particularly undiplomatic local congressional aide who points out that despite Clinton's rhetoric "there is a real shortage of technical Silicon Valley expertise," in the administration. "The one guy they got is [former Apple computer executive] Dave Barram. He's a very nice man. But would you take advice about the Internet from [former Apple president] John Sculley's assistant?"

Supplemental Reading

Seems the Spartan Daily, San Jose State's student newspaper, has gotten itself in hot water again, at least with its pro-choice readers. On May 10, for the second time this school year, the Daily delivered a controversial 12-page, pro-life advertising supplement folded in with its regular gray matter. Pro-choice campus cognoscenti were miffed, noting that SJSU just finished its second trimes--er, semester, when the ad ran--two days before Mother's Day and less than a week before the Daily shut down--leaving little time for rebuttal. ... Nonetheless lecturer Teri Ann Bengiveno organized a small protest outside Daily offices May 15, saying the supplement is "sexist, false, misleading and offensive. The pictures are graphic." She also says information inside--including a photo of "10-week old" fetus feet--is inaccurate. Bengiveno and colleagues are hoping to compile a point-by-point rebuttal of the supplement's claims for the next go-around. "It doesn't look like an ad and it's 12 pages," Bengiveno sniffs. Tiny type in the supplement's upper margins mark the pull-out section as a paid advertisement. Marlene Reid, president of the Human Life Alliance of Minnesota, which produced the ad, says the supplement is part of a national campaign targeting universities. Furthermore, Reid says she'll personally vouch for the accuracy of the text inside and asks, "Why should they be offended? You could open any book on pregnancy and see the same pictures." Newspapers at both Stanford and UCLA, along with roughly 300 other college papers, have distributed the supplement. "They still believe in the First Amendment on most college campuses. There is no better place to debate or discuss a controversial subject like abortion," Reid adds.

Hang 'em High

Meanwhile, life is going to start getting downright tough for the wild-eyed and reckless newsracks of Palo Alto. Observers may remember that several weeks ago Eye reported that civic officials there, determined to root out lawlessness, have targeted newracks. The new ordinance requires the concealment of newspaper covers if they are deemed "harmful to minors" and imposes other requirements on newsrack owners as well. One publication, Yank, voluntarily complied. But not well enough, apparently, because several Yank newsracks have now been cited for violating the ordinance. The citations, printed on 8 1/2 by 11 paper, have been cleverly affixed to the front of several Yank newsracks, where they neatly block the offending material from public view. The citations notify the newsrack owners that they have 10 days to correct the problem or they will have to post bail for their newsracks at the police department yard. Palo Alto officials say they were moved to take action because of the nature of the material published on Yank's cover. "It is even worse inside," Palo Alto Senior Assistant City Attorney Sue Case assures us.

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From the May 23-29, 1996 issue of Metro

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